New Trigger of Alzheimer’s
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According to recent research, stress appears to be related to the onset
of Alzheimer’s disease, by triggering a degenerative process in your
brain and precipitating disruption of your neuroendocrine and immune
The researchers found that nearly three out of four Alzheimer's patients
had experienced severe emotional stress during the two years preceding
their diagnosis, compared to just over one in four in the control group
Alzheimer’s disease currently afflicts about 5.4 million Americans,
including one in eight people aged 65 and over
Research suggests the best hope is in prevention focusing on diet,
exercise and staying mentally active
Avoiding gluten and casein appears to be of critical importance, as is
making sure you’re getting plenty of healthful fats (including demonized
saturated fats). Fasting also has a remarkably beneficial influence on
your brain health
By Dr. Mercola
The connections between stress and
physical and mental health are undeniable. Studies have found links
between acute and/or chronic stress and a wide variety of health issues.
This includes reduced immune function,
increased inflammation, high blood pressure, and alterations in your
brain chemistry, blood sugar levels and hormonal balance, just to name a
According to recent research,
stress also appears to be related to onset of Alzheimer’s disease, which
currently afflicts about 5.4 million Americans, including one in eight
people aged 65 and over.1
It is projected that Alzheimer's will
affect one in four Americans in the next 20 years, rivaling the current
prevalence of obesity and diabetes. There is still no known cure for
this devastating disease, and very few treatments.
Alzheimer's drugs are often of little to no benefit, which
underscores the importance of prevention throughout your lifetime.
compelling research showing that your brain has great plasticity and
capacity for regeneration, which you control through your diet
and lifestyle choices.
Avoiding gluten and casein, or wheat and
dairy primarily, appears to be of critical importance, as is making sure
you’re getting plenty of healthful fats (including demonized saturated
is the primary protein found in dairy, and can be problematic for dairy
intolerant individuals. However, it’s also found in human breast milk.
Additionally, raw dairy is generally well tolerated by casein sensitive
individuals, but contraindicated for those with a severe allergy.
Fasting also has a remarkably beneficial
influence on your brain health. At the end of this article, I share my
best tips for maintaining healthy brain function well into old age.
Stress May Be Related to Clinical Onset of
Researchers in Argentina recently
presented evidence suggesting that stress may be a trigger for the onset
of Alzheimer’s disease. The research was presented at the annual World
Congress of Neurology in Vienna. According to lead author, Dr. Edgardo
"Stress, according to our
findings, is probably a trigger for initial symptoms of dementia.
Though I rule out stress as
monocausal in dementia, research is solidifying the evidence that
stress can trigger a degenerative process in the brain and
precipitate dysfunction in the neuroendocrine and immune system. It
is an observational finding and does not imply direct causality.
Further studies are needed to examine these mechanisms in detail."
The study found that 72 percent—nearly
three out of four—Alzheimer's patients had experienced severe emotional
stress during the two years preceding their diagnosis. In the control
group, only 26 percent, or one in four, had undergone major stress or
grief. Most of the stresses encountered by the Alzheimer’s group
- Bereavement; death of a spouse,
partner, or child
- Violent experiences, such as
assault or robbery
- Car accidents
- Financial problems, including
- Diagnosis of a family member’s
When you consider all the adverse
biological effects that stress and anxiety causes, it might not be such
a stretch that severe stress could trigger Alzheimer’s. For example,
researchers have found links between emotional distress and physical
and even stillbirths.5
It can also
wreak havoc on your gut health, which is critical to maintaining
mental and physical health. Most recently,
reported the findings of a study7
exploring the role of stress in rewiring your brain—in this case,
altering your sense of smell:
“Two brain circuits that don’t
typically “talk” to each other—one linked to our sense of smell and
another linked to emotional processing—can become cross-wired when
we experience stress-induced anxiety. The result is that stressful
experiences transform normally neutral odors into bad ones...
‘After anxiety induction,
neutral smells become clearly negative,’ explains Wen Li, a
professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Waisman Center, who led the study. ‘People experiencing an increase
in anxiety show a decrease in the perceived pleasantness of odors.
It becomes more negative as anxiety increases.’”
How Stress Causes Disease
When you're experiencing acute stress,
your body releases stress hormones like cortisol, which prepare your
body to fight or flee the stressful event. Your heart rate increases,
your lungs take in more oxygen, your blood flow increases and parts of
your immune system become temporarily suppressed, which reduces your
inflammatory response to pathogens and other foreign invaders.
When stress becomes chronic, however,
your immune system becomes less sensitive to cortisol, and since
inflammation is partly regulated by this hormone, this decreased
sensitivity heightens the inflammatory response and allows
inflammation to get out of control.
This is in large part how stress “predisposes” you to getting sick in
the first place. And, in the event you do get sick, emotional stressors
can make your symptoms worse, especially if the stress is severe or
For example, research presented at
this year’s annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in
Miami, Florida, found that ruminating on a stressful incident can
increase your levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in
It was the first study to directly measure this effect. Inflammation, in
turn, is a hallmark of most diseases, from diabetes to heart disease,
cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
Tips for Reducing Work Stress
Polls have shown that work
is the number one source of stress in people’s lives. In a recent
of more than 2,000 people, 34 percent of respondents reported that their
work life was either “very” or “quite” stressful. One in five people
also reported developing anxiety due to work-related stresses. In a
related article, Forbes magazine10
lists nine tips to reduce work-related stress, such as:
- Adding personal touches to your
work space, such as photographs or art work, and live plants
- Keeping your work space clean and
- Learning to handle or ignore
- Incorporating relaxation exercises
into your work day
- Improving your communication skills
Conquer Your Stress and Anxiety with Energy
While it’s not possible or even
recommended to eliminate all stress from your life, you can
provide your body with tools to compensate for the bioelectrical
short-circuiting that takes place when you’re stressed. Using energy
psychology techniques such as the
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can help reprogram your body’s
reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life, thereby
reducing your chances of experiencing adverse health effects. Exercising
regularly, getting enough sleep, and meditation are also important
“release valves” that can help you manage your stress.
EFT was developed in the 1990s by
Gary Craig, a Stanford engineering graduate specializing in healing and
self-improvement. It’s akin to acupuncture, which is based on the
concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible
pathways known as meridians. EFT stimulates different energy meridian
points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while
simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations. This can be done
alone or under the supervision of a qualified therapist.11
By doing so, you help your body
eliminate emotional “scarring” and reprogram the way your body responds
to emotional stressors. Since these stressors are usually connected to
physical problems, many people’s diseases and other symptoms can improve
or disappear as well. For a demonstration, please see the following
video featuring EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman, in which she discusses
EFT for stress relief. However, for serious problems it is far
preferable to see an experienced EFT therapist as there is a significant
art to the process that requires a high level of sophistication if
serious problems are to be successfully treated.
Tips for Maintaining Healthy Brain Function
and Avoiding Alzheimer's Disease
The beauty of following my
optimized nutrition plan is that it helps prevent and treat
virtually ALL chronic degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s
disease. Remember, while memory loss is indeed common among Westerners,
it is NOT a "normal" part of aging, and cognitive changes are by no
As explained by neurologist
Dr. David Perlmutter in a recent interview, Alzheimer’s is a disease
predicated primarily on lifestyle choices; the two main culprits being
excessive sugar and gluten consumption. Another major factor is the
development and increased consumption of
genetically engineered (GE) grains, which are now pervasive in most
processed foods sold in the US. His book,
Grain Brain, provides a powerful argument for eliminating
grains from your diet.
Knowing that it is a preventable disease
puts the power into your hands. People who experience very little
decline in their cognitive function up until their deaths have been
found (post-mortem) to be free of brain lesions, showing that it's
entirely possible to prevent the damage from occurring in the first
place… and one of the best ways to do this is by leading a healthy
- Avoid Sugar and
fructose. Ideally, you’ll want
to keep your sugar levels to a minimum and your total fructose below
25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you have insulin
resistance or any related disorders.
- Avoid gluten and casein
(primarily wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat,
such as butter). Research shows that your blood-brain
barrier, the barrier that keeps things out of your brain where they
don’t belong, is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes
your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your
bloodstream, where they don’t belong. That then sensitizes your
immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of
which play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
- Optimize your gut flora
by regularly eating fermented foods or taking a high
quality probiotic supplement.
- Increase consumption of
healthful fats, including animal-based omega-3. Beneficial
health-promoting fats that your
brain needs for optimal function include organic butter from raw
milk, clarified butter called organic grass fed raw butter, olives,
organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and
macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado.
Also make sure you’re getting enough
animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. (I recommend avoiding
most fish because, although fish is naturally high in omega-3, most
fish are now severely contaminated with mercury.) High intake of the
omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help by preventing cell damage caused by
Alzheimer's disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and
lowering your risk of developing the disorder.
- Reduce your overall calorie
consumption, and/or intermittently fast. Contrary to
popular belief, the ideal fuel for your brain is not glucose but
ketones, which is the fat that your body mobilizes when you stop
feeding it carbs and introduce coconut oil and other sources of
healthy fats into your diet. A one-day fast can help your body to
“reset” itself, and start to burn fat instead of sugar.
As part of a healthy lifestyle, I
intermittent fasting schedule that simply calls for limiting
your eating to a narrower window of time each day. By restricting
your eating to a 6-8 hour window, you effectively fast 16-18 hours
each day. To learn more, please see this previous
- Improve your magnesium
levels. There is some exciting preliminary research
strongly suggesting a decrease in Alzheimer symptoms with increased
levels of magnesium in the brain. Unfortunately, most magnesium
supplements do not pass the blood brain levels, but a new one,
magnesium threonate, appears to and holds some promise for the
future for treating this condition and may be superior to other
- Optimize your vitamin D
levels with safe sun exposure. Strong links between low
levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer's patients and poor outcomes on
cognitive tests have been revealed. Researchers believe that optimal
vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in
your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness
of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.
Vitamin D may also exert some of its
beneficial effects on Alzheimer's through its anti-inflammatory and
immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for
proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that
is also associated with Alzheimer's.
- Keep your fasting insulin
levels below 3. This is indirectly related to fructose, as
it will clearly lead to insulin resistance. However other sugars
(sucrose is 50 percent fructose by weight), grains and lack of
exercise are also important factors. Lowering insulin will also help
lower leptin levels which is another factor for Alzheimer’s.
In addition to the research presented above, a small Finnish study
published in the journal Neurology12
also found that people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce
their risk of Alzheimer's in their later years. For each unit
increase in the marker of vitamin B12, the risk of developing
Alzheimer's was reduced by two percent. Remember, sublingual
methylcobalamin may be your best bet here.
- Eat a nutritious diet, rich
in folate, such as the one described in my
nutrition plan. Vegetables, without question, are your best form
of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every
day. Avoid supplements with folic acid, which is the inferior
synthetic version of folate.
- Avoid and eliminate mercury
from your body. Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50
percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy
metal toxicity. However, you should be healthy prior to having them
removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in
nutrition plan, you can follow the
mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to
have your amalgams removed.
- Avoid aluminum,
such as antiperspirants, non-stick cookware,
vaccine adjuvants, etc.
- Exercise regularly.
It's been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way
the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,13
thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer's.
Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Research
has also shown that people with Alzheimer's have less PGC-1alpha in
their brains and cells that contain more of the protein produce less
of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer's. I would
strongly recommend reviewing the
Peak Fitness Technique for my specific recommendations.
- Avoid flu vaccinations
as most contain both mercury and aluminum, well-known neurotoxic and
- Eat blueberries.
Wild blueberries, which have high anthocyanin and antioxidant
content, are known to guard against Alzheimer's and other
neurological diseases. Like any fruit though, avoid excesses here.
- Challenge your mind daily.
Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as
learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with
a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers suspect that mental
challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible
to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.
- Avoid anticholinergic and
statin drugs. Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous
system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of
dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers,
antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to
control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.
Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress
the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10 and
neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of
essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by
inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule
known as low-density lipoprotein.